Resilient Rangers will have depth tested during current winning streak
Peter Laviolette has already made a little history as New York Rangers head coach. After a perfect five-game roadtrip that concluded with a 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets, it marked the first time the franchise won every game of a trip 5 games or more in length.
“It’s awesome,” Laviolette remarked. “Anytime you can grab a record it’s special. This franchise has been around a long time, so that’s a pretty big record.”
These resilient Blueshirts, weary from travel, withstood a nasty Carolina Hurricanes team on Thursday night for a 2-1 home victory and extend their current winning streak to 6 straight. However, in the process, they lost two key stars to injury with defenseman Adam Fox on LTIR (lower-body injury) and Filip Chytil on IR due to an upper-body issue.
As the Rangers march on in the 2023-24 campaign, their good start will have to deal with these latest challenges. Another test to see how good this team really is.
Resilient Rangers buying into Laviolette’s system
Laviolette could not have had a better start to his debut season on Broadway. The Rangers have bought into his defensive first system, stifling their opponents to just 8 goals against amid this 6-game hot stretch of hockey.
The Rangers look like a completely different team than what we have seen in the past two years with Gerard Gallant. They no longer look for the perfect pass for a highlight reel goal and the team rarely concedes odd man rushes. This is due in large part to Laviolette’s defensive structure.
Utilizing the 1-3-1 has really helped the Rangers tighten up defensively and quickly transition to offense off turnovers. Thursday’s game against Carolina showed that the Rangers can play in tight games and be successful.
So far this season, the Rangers have averaged only 1.90 goals against and potted 3.00 goals per game. Throw in the great goaltending of Igor Shesterkin along with Jonathan Quick and it’s no wonder the team has an 8-2-0 record.
Special Teams boosting Rangers early
The Rangers have been dominant on both special teams during this run. They went 7 for 18 during the trip and killed 17 of 18 on the penalty kill. Chris Kreider’s net front presence has been excellent and crucial to team success. A prime example was his late game-tying power play goal in Winnipeg before the team won it in OT.
Of course, the power play may look different with Adam Fox out of the lineup. At home versus the Canes, the Rangers finished the night going 1 for 5 on the power play, scoring with Fox leading the first unit. Erik Gustafsson replaced Fox, but the first unit looked out of sorts with him as the quarterback. It will be interesting to see what changes they make going forward until Fox returns.
Helping boost the PK has been the Rangers dominance in the face off dots to start the season. This is due in large part to Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bonino, and Mika Zibanejad, who have won a majority of their draws. Trocheck leads them all with a 61.8 winning percentage on draws.
Can the resiliency continue?
The Rangers faced their biggest test of the season against the Canes and did not back down. There were many dirty plays that went uncalled but the Rangers battled through it to victory. After losing arguably their best player on the ice with Adam Fox and then center depth with Filip Chytil, the team was able to step up. Jacob Trouba was blocking shots left and right and had the game winning assist on Will Cuylle’s goal. Trouba finished the night with almost twenty-five minutes of ice time, and he will be counted on even more if Fox is out in the coming games.
New York is off to a great start to the season, sitting on top of the Metropolitan Division and third in overall league standings. However, the depth of this team will now be tested and their resiliency to bend but not break will be on full display.
At the end of the day, all teams will need to deal with injuries. When the regular season comes to an end, this current winning streak and what happens over the this month may prove pivotal to the Rangers’ playoff chances.